Today’s Revenue Manager has access to more “intell” about their ideal target market and its purchase behavior than ever before. Subsequently, they are in a better position to develop online strategies. But by working more closely with DOSMs (Directors of Sales & Marketing), they’re able to improve the hotels’ overall performance even further.
In the last several years, I’ve witnessed a growing number of revenue managers express interest in learning more about digital marketing, particularly on property. So, I was excited when Sojern invited me to participate in their recent webinar, “How Digital Marketing Can Transform Revenue Management.” In case you missed it, here is a brief recap of what I covered during the webinar. I would encourage everyone to watch the full recording for more detail.
Your Hotel Website Impacts Your Bottom Line
A 2017 study by Fuel and Flip.to found that your hotel website is the most influential factor when travel shoppers are researching and making accommodation decisions. More influential, in fact, than word of mouth, OTAs, search engines and review sites. That’s because they trust that you’ll provide the most accurate information about your property. For that reason, up to 60% of OTA consumers will visit your website before making a reservation on an OTA site, according to Triptease. And that’s your opportunity to capture their interest and convince them to book direct instead.
The Goal of Your Hotel Website
We know that having a one-to-one relationship with your guests is important on many levels, the most obvious being that it’s the most profitable transaction. According to Kalibri Labs, direct bookers deliver 9-18% more net RevPAR than other guests due to upsell and ancillary revenue opportunities. Therefore, the goal of your hotel website is to capture more of them, using third-party websites and OTAs to smartly to supplement online sales efforts. Unfortunately, I see a fair share of hotel marketers falling short of their objectives, often because their website isn’t focused on the things that really matter.
Oh Website, Where Art Thou?
One of the biggest problems hotels face is online discoverability; travel shoppers can’t even find their website, let alone book through it! This is where Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – the ability to rank organically in search engine results – comes into play.
Ranking on Page 1 in search engine results is very difficult, and almost impossible for head terms like “hotels in New York” or “Dallas hotels.” This battle is best left to your brand. Your efforts at the property-level are better spent focusing on long-tail keywords. These are search terms consisting of 4, 5 or more words, and are specific in nature. An example would be, “family friendly hotel in Miami near zoo.” Long-tail keywords help attract qualified travel shoppers to your website; people who have identified their hotel selection criteria and are closer to making a booking.
SEO and Revenue Management
A successful SEO strategy contains precious insights into what travel shoppers are searching for, website traffic patterns, and tells you what pages of your site convert the best (lead people to click “Book Now”). This data can be used to develop special offers, gauge demand and adjust pricing, and determine how much inventory to release to third-party booking channels.
Convert More Travel Shoppers on Your Website
Of course, driving more traffic to your website is only useful if you can transform that traffic into bookings. For that, you need a conversion-driven website; one that is optimized to lead travel shoppers down the path to your booking engine. At Leonardo, we’ve identified 5 best practices for a high-converting hotel website:
1. Tell You Unique Story
This is the one thing OTAs simply can’t compete on. Only you know what makes your hotel unique and better than any other in your comp set. Tell your story using a blend of words, photos, captions, videos, and virtual tours. This kind of clever storytelling helps develop a visceral connection with travel shoppers, which is important because emotion has been found to influence purchase intent. Describe how you’re going to make their experience more efficient, more enjoyable, or more memorable.
2. Lead with Guest Room Images
Images convey your hotel’s story quickly and effectively. Studies have also shown that people remember images longer, which is essential as travelers move through the shopping journey. Be memorable. Leonardo analyzed more than 500 million pieces of media and found that guest rooms are the #1 most viewed image. Therefore, lead with high-quality guest room photos on your homepage (not an exterior shot of your building). People want to see where they’ll be sleeping and what the experience will feel like.
3. Provide Social Proof
As shoppers move closer toward making a booking, they look for validation that they are making the right decision, seeking out guest reviews to boost their confidence. Did you know that 53% of travelers won’t book a hotel without first reading reviews, and 76% will pay more for a hotel with better reviews? Start asking for feedback from your guests, and be sure to embed these reviews on your website. Sites like TripAdvisor and TrustYou offer free embeddable widgets to make this simple and easy.
4. Promote Special Offers
Accommodation is one of the biggest expenses involved with taking a trip, so travel shoppers want to ensure they’re getting the best deal. Provide special offers on your website, preferably ones that can only be booked direct. A promotion doesn’t have to be focused on price. It can be anything that creates value in the mind of the consumer – a free gift on arrival, later check-out, first pick of the best rooms, etc. Highlight your special offers everywhere on your website and provide an incentive to book direct.
5. Be Mobile
Mobile is squarely integrated into the travel shopping journey. In 2016, 60% of travel searches and 1 in 5 reservations were made on mobile devices, so your website should be optimized for on-the-go shoppers. This means no pinching, zooming or scrolling to view content, having a clear call-to-action on every page, booking engine integration that facilitates last-minute bookings, click-to-call functionality, Google Maps integration, and suggestions for what to do in the local area.
Digital Marketing & Revenue Management, Better Together
Two prominent people in history, born a couple of thousand years apart, are in agreement on what it takes to be successful. Aristotle in 360 B.C. told us that “The whole is greater than the simple sum of its parts.” Fast forward to 1995, when Michael Jordan said: “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.”
To drive more direct bookings, astute DORMs are working more closely with DOSMs to understand digital marketing on a deeper level, and proving that it’s entirely possible to develop your hotel website into the most profitable booking channel, with third-party websites and OTAs simply rounding out your efforts.
About Darlene Rondeau
Darlene Rondeau has more than 25 years of marketing & sales leadership focused on providing solutions for Fortune 1000 Companies. Over the last 2 decades, Darlene’s client list includes worldwide brands such as American Airlines, AT&T, Carlson Wagonlit Travel, Disney, General Electric, Hilton Hotels, Southwest Airlines, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, and USA Today. Currently, Ms. Rondeau is Vice President, Best Practices, Online Merchandising for Leonardo Worldwide. Her role is to educate hoteliers and work with industry associations to heighten awareness of new visual marketing techniques that motivate consumers throughout their travel shopping journey.
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